Friday, August 12, 2016

The Jewish Flag Conspiracy

This weekend Nick Peters and I are supposed to record a podcast where I talk about conspiracy theories. So I decided to use this week to illustrate one with a selection from one of my ebooks on conspiracy theories.

Real Jews opposed this design fiercely and suggested that their flag should instead depict a menorah, pointing out that the hexagram was not even a Jewish symbol. It has come to be known as the Star of David but is not mentioned in the Bible at all and was in fact only adopted in the Enlightenment based on occult ideas from the Kabbalah. Despite the protests, the Rothschilds were in control of the operation and the hexagram stayed.

We mentioned earlier in this book that we wondered what Fairley would have to say about this, and now we know. Too bad he’s got the history partly wrong. Let's see what the some reputable sources have to say about this subject.

One of the first Jewish uses of the Star of David was as part of a colophon, the special emblem printed on the title page of a book. Sometimes the printer included his family name in the colophon; or chose an illustration that alluded to his name, ancestry, or the local prince, or a symbol of success and blessing. The idea was to differentiate this printer's books from those of his competitors and to embellish the title page. Colophons are as old as the printing press itself.

According to Sholem, the motive for the widespread use of the Star of David was a wish to imitate Christianity. During the Emancipation, Jews needed a symbol of Judaism parallel to the cross, the universal symbol of Christianity. In particular, they wanted something to adorn the walls of the modern Jewish house of worship that would be symbolic like the cross. This is why the Star of David became prominent in the nineteenth century and why it was later used on ritual objects and in synagogues and eventually reached Poland and Russia. The pursuit of imitation, in Sholem's opinion, led to the dissemination of an emblem that was not really Jewish and conveyed no Jewish message. In his opinion, it was also the reason why the Star of David satisfied Zionism: it was a symbol which had already attained wide circulation among the Jewish communities but at the same time evoked no clear-cut religious associations. The Star of David became the emblem of Zionist Jews everywhere. Non-Jews regarded it as representing not only the Zionist current in Judaism, but Jewry as a whole.

Now it is true that the Star of David was used in medieval mysticism, and it may even have been in use as early as early as the 3rd century. In the end, the origins of the symbol are uncertain, but this can be seen as a Jewish instance of triumphant reclamation, as one of the articles we've consulted says:

The Star of David is an outstanding example of the variable significance of symbols. The power of the message they convey stems less from the original use in history. At first the Star of David had no religious, political, or social connotations whatsoever. It gained a very powerful connotation precisely as a result of its terrible abuse by the Nazis.

There’s also nothing to suggest the Rothschilds had anything to do with the symbol being kept, or that “real Jews” (whatever that means) opposed it. The same article says:

…Moshe Sharett decided to inquire into Diaspora Jewry's thoughts about the flag of the State of Israel. On July 20, 1948, he sent cables to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who was in Switzerland at the time; to Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, in New York; to Prof. Zelig Brodetsky, in London; and to the Zionist General Council, in Johannesburg. Rabbi Silver replied that "we would prefer to leave the Zionist flag as the national flag of Israel, with a minimum of changes. We feel that the fear of complications as a result of use of the flag at Zionist gatherings overseas has been somewhat exaggerated." The other Zionist leaders responded similarly. After the fears of "dual loyalty" had been alleviated, the Provisional Council of State voted unanimously on October 28, 1948 to adopt the Zionist flag as that of the State of Israel. The resolution came into effect two weeks later, after publication in the Official Gazette.

More details are provided in the essay “Shaping Time: The Choice of the National Emblem of Israel” by Don Handelman and Lea Shamgar-Handelman, in Culture Through Time: Anthropological Approaches. Far from being dictated by the Rothschilds or anyone else, the flag design was decided based on a contest. The announcement actually “requested that a seven-branched menorah and seven stars, each with six gold points, appear in the design, but stated that any proposal would be given consideration.”

Over 450 designs were submitted. There were apparently some proposals that included a menorah. Others proposed a hexagram.

The Israeli cabinet chose a couple of flag designs, which it turned over to Israel’s state council. They chose a menorah design for the emblem and the Star of David for the flag.

Was there protest over the design? Yes, but not for the reasons Fairley claims. The original flag design had seven golden six pointed stars, and it was the seven stars that were the problem. It was dismissed by critics as an “artificial creation” which showed ignorance of Jewish symbols. At a meeting on the matter, an archaeologist objected to the use of the Star of David on the emblem – not the flag -- on the grounds that it wasn’t an ancient Jewish symbol.

As for the flag itself, Israel’s foreign minister checked with Zionist groups around the world because he wanted to distinguish the flag from their flag. In the end, they accepted the same basic design we see today, but changed the thematic color to dark blue.

Beyond this issue, it is nice to see Fairley show disdain for anti-Semitism. But he unwittingly caters to it with statements like, “These so-called Jews are not Jews at all.” That's falling into the same trap of anti-Semitism he so roundly condemns.


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